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Senate Vote: 168     Vote Date: Sep 10th, 2020

Issue:  S. 178, UIGHUR Act of 2019.  Vehicle for “Skinny” Coronavirus Relief Bill — Senate Amendment No. 2652.  Question:  On the Cloture Motion: Motion to Invoke Cloture: on the Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to S. 178 with Senate Amendment No. 2652.  [S. 178 was merely a vehicle for the proposed amendment.]

Result:  Rejected in Senate, 52 yeas to 47 nays, 1 not voting (3/5 vote required).  GOP only scored. 

Freedom First Society:  Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced his “skinny” Coronavirus relief bill (Senate Amendment No. 2652), costing roughly $300 billion with offsets, ostensibly to unify his caucus, many of whom would not support McConnell’s $1.1 trillion proposal in late July.

But spending $300 billion the federal government doesn’t have is still wrong, particularly when most of it is unconstitutional.  We do not score the Democrats for voting against cloture, because they were pushing for a much larger package.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Bill Summary:  According to Roll Call (9-10-20):

“Key features of the smaller GOP bill include a $300 boost in weekly unemployment insurance benefits through Dec. 27, and a revamped Paycheck Protection Program offering a ‘second draw’ of loans for hard hit businesses.

Other provisions of the Senate GOP relief bill include:

  • A revamped Paycheck Protection Program taking back unspent Small Business Administration funds and offering “second draw” loans, capped at $2 million each, to firms with 300 or fewer workers that have seen revenue drop at least 35 percent year-over-year. The new program is estimated to cost nearly $258 billion, but the net cost drops to about $112 billion after rescinding unspent SBA funds.
  • $105 billion for K-12 schools and colleges and universities, along with the new scholarship programs intended to promote school choice. There’s also $15 billion to help working parents find accessible child care options.
  • $20 billion for farmers and ranchers who’ve been hurt by pandemic-induced losses, and $500 million for fishing and seafood industries.
  • $31 billion for development and distribution of vaccines, drugs and other medical supplies, and $16 billion for testing and contact tracing.
  • $10 billion worth of loan forgiveness for the U.S. Postal Service if the agency falls below certain cash thresholds.
  • Liability protections for businesses, schools and health care providers.
  • An expanded charitable deduction for 2020 contributions made by taxpayers who claim the standard deduction and aren’t eligible to claim charitable deductions.”

Freedom First Society Analysis:  The federal government’s money tree is a destructive deception (see our post “The Federal  Money Tree”).  What the government gives to some, it must ultimately take from others.  But that reality is disguised by Federal Reserve financing of deficits (creating new money, which eventually devalues the currency) or by “temporary” foreign purchases of U.S. debt.  (Public borrowing of such enormous sums is not an option as that raises interest rates and kills private investment.)

Two wrongs don’t make a right!  The reaction of governments to an ostensible coronavirus crisis is responsible for the major economic stress imposed on businesses (including bankruptcies) and the people (e.g., increased unemployment).  But “printing” more money does not substitute for production.  And unconstitutional government handouts of money does not cure the problem either.

If the government were really interested in protecting the public, which it’s not, government should have weighed the unavoidable economic consequences of the shutdown against the health benefits of an unprecedented quarantine of an entire, mostly heathy population.

What federal and state governments did to create the recession and why is what needs to be address, not the symptoms.  But it is not our purpose here to show that governments had an agenda far different from protecting the people.  (Consider just the financial incentives provided to hospitals for inflating coronavirus statistics – example, someone who died in a motorcycle accident becomes a “coronavirus death” if the body tests positive for the virus.)

A Purely Political Vote
Leaders of both parties knew the “skinny” coronavirus aid bill wouldn’t pass the Senate.  But Senator McConnell reportedly argued that a unified GOP vote supporting some level of socialist aid would accomplish two things: 1) It would strengthen GOP bargaining power with the Democrats for a compromise bill; and 2) The vote would help some Republican Senators facing tough election challenges from Democrats.

Regarding #1, McConnell was successful in winning the support of almost all of the Republican Senators (except Senator Rand Paul) by scaling down the amount of unconstitutional aid.

If #2 is true, it is a sad commentary that a vote for government handouts aids GOP reelections.

The Compromise Fraud
Any compromise that follows in the footsteps of recent aid bills is bad.  Political compromise that violates the Constitution is not hallowed. And when socialist Republicans compromise with socialist Democrats, the result is clearly further destruction of our Republic.

The solution to America’s ills must be for an informed and activated electorate to clean house in Congress and to insist that Congress begin rolling back unconstitutional programs and departments.  It’s a big task – but anything else will not avert disaster.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been leading the White House Covid-19 relief negotiations with the Democrats (along with chief of staff Mark Meadow).  On September 14, he told CNBC that he was still willing to work with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to come up with a compromise deal.  Mnuchin argued that “lawmakers should not allow fears over the size of the nation’s deficit or the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet to delay additional Covid-19 relief” to address the recession.

Mnuchin’s position is not surprising considering his background.  Mnuchin spent 17 years with the Insider firm of Goldman Sachs, where he became a partner.  Mnuchin is not himself currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, but The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is a Corporate “Founding” member.

When Mnuchin left Goldman Sachs in 2002, he launched an investment fund together with billionaire George Soros (CFR), a Hillary Clinton supporter.  Although Mnuchin served as the national finance chairman for Trump’s campaign, Mnuchin had a long-time history as a Democratic donor, having previously supported both Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s campaigns.

Use of Unrelated Vehicles
We also have a standing objection to the lack of transparency in votes by Congress.  Congress continues to make it nearly impossible for the public to understand what it’s doing, as reflected on government websites.  And this in the age of the Internet!

Continued use of unrelated vehicles is inexcusable.  This one (S. 178), amended by the House in 2019, was titled “A bill to condemn gross human rights violations of ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, and calling for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China.”

Moreover, the cloture vote on Senate Amdt 2652 to the House amended S. 178 was not identified as a vote on a“Skinny Coronavirus Relief Bill.”  Even trying to determine what the amendment was about was a chore. Fortunately, the news media told us the day and the outcome of the vote, so there was only one possibility.